Environmental groups slate Government water plan

River Basin Management Plan ‘lacks ambition’ and political will, critics say


The Government’s latest plan to protect Ireland’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters has been criticised by environmental groups as inadequate and lacking ambition.

The River Basin Management Plan falls far short of what is needed to address persistent environmental failures that are putting pressures on Irish water systems, they say.

These pressures include continuing discharges of raw and inadequately treated sewage; inappropriate spreading of slurry, fertiliser and pesticides on farmland; unsuitable coniferous forestry and drainage of peatland and wetlands; and faulty septic tanks, according to the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN).

There is an absence of what is needed to protect our rivers, lakes and bays and to bring them up to “a healthy standard”, SWAN says.

The plan lacks the political will needed to support Ireland’s claims to be a ‘green’ tourist destination, according to the Network, an umbrella group for 25 environmental groups. It also threatens Ireland’s capability to become a truly environmentally-friendly food producer through such programmes as Origin Green”, according to coordinator Sinéad O’Brien.

This was in spite of putting in place welcome new overseeing structures including a team of officials and scientists based in the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government, and another at local authority level.

The legal requirement under the EU Water Framework Directive in place since 2000 is to introduce new measures to bring Irish rivers, lakes and bays up to a “good” ecological state by 2021, Ms O’Brien said.

“However this obligation has been under-resourced to the extent that half (52 per cent) of Ireland’s rivers and lakes are failing to achieve the ‘good status’ required by the directive. This latest plan is sadly consistent with Ireland’s lack of ambition to date, proposing to fix only a small fraction (12 per cent) of these,” she said.

“This plan lacks ambition and is an exercise in doing the best you can to stem pollution whilst imposing no significant obligations for change on any of the sectors responsible.”

SWAN said far more State investment was needed to end the discharge of raw and poorly treated sewage into rivers and bays . “Grant-aid to farmers must shift so as to support farming that prevents water pollution, protects the rural landscape and contributes to sustainable flood management, rather than encouraging intensification programme not yet proven to be sustainable.”